A last-gasp Jean-Marc Doussain penalty earned a woeful France a narrow 19-17 away win over Scotland on Saturday that keeps Les Bleus on course for their first Six Nations title since 2010.
Doussain converted a routine penalty in the 78th minute to set up an exciting finale against Ireland at Stade de France on Saturday.
Ireland lead the table with six points, ahead of France on points difference before yesterday’s clash between England and Wales.
The hosts, who have not beaten Les Bleus since a 20-16 victory in the championship in 2006, scored two tries through Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour with Greig Laidlaw adding the extras, while Duncan Weir slotted home a penalty.
France, who had won 14 of their past 15 meetings with Scotland, had one Yoann Huget try to show for themselves with Maxime Machenaud’s boot providing 11 points, to which Doussain added the winning three.
“We had a good start, but some little mistakes cost us some points,” Huget told French TV channel France 2.
“We worked hard to come back into the game and we showed character,” he said.
“It was not easy. Maybe we were lacking confidence after the Wales game,” fullback Brice Dulin said.
Philippe Saint-Andre’s team, who were looking to bounce back from a 27-6 demolition by Wales, were terrible in the lineouts, unusually weak at the scrum and their paper-thin defense did little to help them.
Scotland were penalized for collapsing the scrum and Machenaud slotted home to give France a good start, then benefited from the hosts’ lack of discipline to add another penalty minutes later.
However, Huget failed to control a high ball and Hogg, who had followed his own kick, touched it down and Laidlaw added the conversion to put the Scots ahead.
France, who finished with the wooden spoon last year, briefly regained control of the scoreboard thanks to Machenaud’s boot, but Seymour benefited from a block on Jules Plisson to beat the defense and score Scotland’s second try.
Laidlaw’s conversion put them five points clear and Machenaud missed his first penalty-kick on the stroke of half-time, with the Scots leading 14-9.
However, Huget made up for his previous mistake when he intercepted a pass to make a 80m run for the line, and with Machenaud’s conversion, France took command early in the second half.
Saint-Andre, who has been tinkering with his halfback pairing since he took over from Marc Lievremont after the 2011 World Cup, replaced flyhalf Plisson with Remi Tales in the 48th minute.
France were penalized shortly after the hour for failing to roll away from a ruck, and Weir kicked the penalty.
Les Bleus came close to scoring their second try shortly afterward, but a knock-on by Maxime Mermoz’s ruined a well-crafted move.
However, Scotland found a way to lose the game.
Two minutes from time, lock Tim Swinson did not roll away after a tackle and France were awarded a penalty.
Doussain, who had replaced Machenaud three minutes earlier, easily slotted his kick between the posts to secure the win.